I’m currently sitting in Waupaca, Wisconsin. It is my little piece of heaven. I’m always just the right amount of alone at this place. On every side are the tall trees that both block and bring sunlight. On the porch outside is a rocking chair that creeks along the wood in perfect unison with the chirping birds. The inside carries the voices of people I love and hold so dear to me. I’ve yet to make it up to my friend’s place this year, so I am more than grateful to close out 2016, in a deeply needed reflection, right here.
I will say that 2016 has been one of the happiest and saddest years of my 27 years on this Earth. I’ve never felt such a tenderness in my heart to be both celebratory and mournful. I took some time over Christmas break to narrow in on what I have felt most impacted by. These things range from marriage to the movie Arrival. Some are longer snippets of reflection, finding their space here and not their own blog post.
May 6, 2016 + Honeymoon
This year, I had the absolute privilege of marrying the man I love. The planning process itself was awful, but it turned out to be quite literally the best day of our lives. I could never forget the vows we exchanged, the little Altoids that Kurt gave us before he pronounced us man and wife, my dad’s sweet nervousness of walking me down the aisle, the sweaty dancing and being surrounded by every beautiful friend. And, of course, laying beneath the sun in St. Lucia.
This summer was very generous to us. It was neither too rainy nor too humid as it has been in the years past– it was just right. Our new apartment is nestled in quiet Ukrainian Village, so our walks to Wicker Park are comfortable. B and I took a lot of walks this summer to really soak up every bit of the weather. We didn’t make it to a lot of the movies in the parks, but we did get to experience perfect porch nights alongside friends. This summer was also the summer of my wisdom teeth removal. Sadly, my Fourth of July diet was applesauce and mashed potatoes. Thankfully, that only has to happen once.
This year also brought me a confidence in the application of boundaries in relationships, one relationship in particular. However hard and uncomfortable it is, I am learning that, sometimes, the best way to love someone is to set a boundary. It is, I see now, OK to love from afar.
Also, cheers to four years in counseling. Candice, you are the wick to so many candles held in the darkness. I cannot begin to thank you enough.
Magazine Subscriptions + Books
I challenged myself to a full year of reading only The New Yorker and The Atlantic subscriptions. What I came to realize, though, was that it was indeed an election year and my heart could only take so much. However, I have learned more than I could have imagined about different countries, cultures, people. Some of my favorite articles from The New Yorker are here, here, here, here, and here. Those articles range from Obama’s peacemaking with Cuba to the war on doctors in Syria. The Atlantic provided a few great articles, but my favorite was the cover story “The Obama Doctrine.”
As far as books, four stand out as the most impactful and equally transformational:
1. “The Myth of a Christian Nation” – Greg Boyd
2. “The Myth of a Christian Religion” – Greg Boyd
3. “The Road Back to You: An Enneagram Journey to Self-Discovery” – Ian Morgan Cron and Suzanne Stabile
4. “We Too Sing America” – Deepa Iyer
Racism, Sexism, Homophobia
For the past five years, I have witnessed the disease that are these very things. I rode the outskirts, finding safety in writing papers and reading others’ research on the hand that communities of color were dealt. I have excused the sexist remarks I have received in an effort to pretend I wasn’t actually affected. But then I started talking to other people — those like me and different than me — and I witnessed the deep divide: a denial from those with privilege; a certitude that their way was the right way. This led to two very real paradigm shifts in my faith and relationships. My actions now include taking more intentional steps to be more active in my role as, uh, a decent human who is privileged. My hope is to be quiet when it is time to learn, speak when I need to, and ultimately work towards reconciliation. The work has already been in motion for many years, but it is time I no longer sit on what I know.
The past two years brought out everything and more that I talk about above. It already existed, but as it surfaced, it was welcomed. Knowing Donald Trump is president-elect will never not make me feel uneasy. From the current peaceful policies we have, we are sure to move into a wave a chaos. (It’s a funny thing to read how Muslims in one country are protecting Christians, but we wouldn’t do the same here, right?) I am still working on grace-filled understanding — not agreeing — towards those who did vote for him. These next four years are full of many unknowns, but I plant my footsteps in the path of Christ and his call to love all those who will live on the margins. And I pray for those I perceive as my enemies; may we all be aware of our own contradictions. I guess what matters most is that I can close out 2016 knowing President Obama is still President.
One more thing — while weeping, I finished out the last episode of season seven of The West Wing a few weeks ago. Although fictional, the Bartlet Administration’s footprint will never leave my heart. Isaac and Ishmael remains my favorite episode from the show. That episode taught me that we’ve so much learn about our perceptions as a nation. And I believe all forms of media will continue to teach us these things … so long as we listen.
Arrival (Spoilers ahead)
Lastly, I want to touch on this movie. I have now seen Arrival twice. Each time, I walked out feeling this sense of deep melancholy, as if I witnessed something unspeakably beautiful. Maybe it was a combination of the score by Jóhann Jóhannsson, the cinematography and Amy Adams’ way of remaining just the right amount of wonderstruck and curious. For me, Arrival was a religious experience. The themes of time and communication — between humans and others — revealed to me the beauty and sadness of the here, now, and what could be. I don’t even know if I can adequately make sense of what I think about this movie, but I will try.
In a major twist, Adams’ character receives a gift that I perceive as prophesy. With this gift, she had the power to bring reconciliation to different countries. She also had the (albeit rather confusing) power to see every bit of heartache that awaited her in some reflection of her future. She could be both in the present, see into the past or look into the future. Adam’s choice of whether or not to avoid heartache also butted against whether it would disrupt what lay ahead. Time, she found, was permeable. Even death was without time. When one of the heptapod’s communicates another heptapod’s death, it says, “Abbot is death process.” This “is” is the singular meaning that is essential to understanding perception of time.
Arrival brought me back to the Trinity — Father, Son and Holy Spirit. At some point in time, each presented themselves to us: as a great cloud, as Christ, as a dwelling Spirit — “For who knows a person’s thoughts except their own spirit within them? In the same way no one knows the thoughts of God except the Spirit of God.” There is this intimate communication with one another in a deep knowing and guiding. And it remains that all three exist outside of time and are intrinsically one. For me, Adam’s character got this. She felt the wavelengths of endless time through and through, so decisions (difficult or not) were just how the process moved along. If all time is relative, how much more present should we be? How much more celebrated is the joy we feel in the now? How important is it to be? As a Christian, what really is the weight and value in my everyday actions?
Alan Burdick, writing on the psychology of time, sums up this concept beautifully by saying, “Recite a poem or a psalm by heart: your mind strains to recall what you’ve said and reaches forward to grab what you will say next. Memory pulls against expectation […] ‘Time is nothing other than tension,’ St. Augustine wrote, ‘and I would be very surprised if it is not tension of consciousness itself.'”
Honorable 2016 Mentions
Every pantsuit she donned on a Saturday night was perfection. Watching her powerfully cover “Hallelujah” in the utter rawness of the words, “I’ve told the truth, I didn’t come to fool you/And even though it all went wrong…” left me feeling like she summarized so much of what 2016 was for women — a grim reminder that a vast majority of men will not have consequences to rape and/or sexual assault; and a female presidential nominee was voted against by so many other women … in order to elect a man who said the sentence “grab them by the pussy” as President.
Senator Chris Murphy
When it comes to gun control, so few politicians have been as brave as this man. His home state of Connecticut was where the shooting at Sandy Hook happened. His justice-driven, 15 hour filibuster over the summer will not be forgotten. Senator Murphy kept in mind every single life that was taken on December 14, 2012.
“It doesn’t take courage to stand here on the floor of the United States Senate for two hours or six hours or 14 hours,” Murphy said. “It takes courage to look into the eye of a shooter and instead of running, wrapping your arms around a 6-year-old boy and accepting death.”
Black Lives Matter & The Standing Rock Sioux Tribe
I’ve never been prouder to belong to a generation that uses protests to, not only bring awareness, but change. BLM has been a beautiful, incredibly important movement that transforms the hurt and pain of decades of discrimination into a powerful mission. The representation of a variety of issues shows their commitment to seeing equality in every realm of their lives. What an honor it is to see this fight for justice and to stand alongside these strong men and women. Jelani Cobb said it best when he said, “Here is the difference a color makes: “blue lives matter” express a fact in our society; “black lives matter” exists as a reminder, or an aspiration. The former is not a radical proposition; the latter, given the weight of history and habit, is a contested idea.”
Standing Rock was one of those Once In A Lifetime moments that you read about later. Their stance from the onset was peace, peace and they would accept nothing less in return. Of course, we are a nation built on violence and those who pushed against them were not peaceful. But the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe and their loyal allies did not budge. After months of peaceful protesting, they won. THEY WON. The Sioux Tribe was able to keep their rightly owned property, because they did not give up. Beautiful.
My hope for 2017 is much more than finding a new job (although, that is a huge one!) I learned a lot this year — about myself, the world I cultivate around myself, and the world as it is. And I’ve still so much to learn. I think much of my work will involve what Richard Rohr describes as a love that suffers:
“Love, I believe, is the only way to initially and safely open the door of awareness and aliveness, and then suffering for that love keeps the door open and available for ever greater growth.”
I want to order my life in a way that is simply in tune with all that’s around. I want to be slow to react and quick to engage with a compassionate response. There’s much ahead, friends. I cannot thank enough the ones that know me to my core and have been on the journey with me; I know at any moment I can look over and know I am not alone.
Onward to 2017.
Now, tell me about your 2016.